Toasted ravioli originated in “the Hill,” an Italian American neighborhood of St. Louis “founded in the 1830s by immigrants from Northern Italy,” according to the Takeout. The exact tale of who invented this delicacy is up for debate, but it seems to have been around since the 1940s and has been a local staple ever since. “A town has to have its icons, and for this historic Missouri city stretched along the Mississippi River the most obvious ones — in chronological order only — are Mark Twain, the Gateway Arch and Mark McGwire. Feel free to add toasted ravioli to the list,” the Chicago Tribune wrote in 1999. And having gone to college in St. Louis and eaten my fare share of toasted ravioli, I know this statement to be true.
When it comes to making this dish at home, everything starts with the ravioli itself. Some restaurants go so far as to make the pasta dough and filling from scratch, which you are certainly welcome to do if you’re in the mood for a cooking project, but for the rest of us, store bought is fine. I used Italian sausage- and cheese-filled ravioli in my recipe testing and devoured every single one, but you can use any type of meat, cheese and/or vegetable ravioli that suits your fancy.
For the breading, a mix of Italian breadcrumbs and shredded cheese adds loads of flavor. (If you happen to only have plain breadcrumbs, simply mix them with a dried Italian seasoning blend, garlic powder, salt and pepper to save yourself a trip to the store.) Parmesan is traditionally the cheese in this recipe, but pecorino Romano can also be used for a more assertive flavor. The ravioli are first dipped in an egg wash with olive oil, which helps create an extra crispy coating, before putting on a coat of the breadcrumb-cheese mixture and heading to the freezer to help it stay on. When fried, the ravioli puff up into delicious little golden pasta pillows, ready to be savored.
The New York Times called toasted ravioli the “secret of St. Louis” back in 1987, and its greatness has yet to reach the ears and mouths of the nation. This recipe is my attempt to change that. Once you make it yourself, don’t be stingy by keeping it to yourself.
NOTE: It’s important to divide your ravioli into batches to prevent the temperature of the oil from dropping too much. Equally important is to allow the oil temperature to return to between 325 and 350 degrees before frying the next batch.
Make Ahead: Once frozen, the ravioli can be transferred to an airtight container and stored for up to 3 months.
Storage Notes: Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
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- 2 large eggs
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or table salt
- 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
- 2/3 cup Italian breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup (about 1 ounce) finely grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese, plus more for serving
- 18 fresh meat and/or cheese ravioli (from one 10-ounce package)
- Neutral oil, such as canola, for frying
- Marinara, warmed, for serving
Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, salt and pepper until thoroughly combined. In a separate shallow bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs and cheese with a fork until evenly combined, making sure to break up any lumps. One at a time, dip each ravioli in the egg mixture, making sure it’s coated all over and shaking off any excess, and then transfer the ravioli to the breadcrumb mixture and toss to coat all over, pressing gently to make sure that the coating adheres, and shake off any excess. Place on the prepared baking sheet and repeat with the remaining ravioli. Freeze, uncovered, until firm, at least 15 minutes and up to overnight.
Meanwhile, add enough oil to a medium or large heavy-bottomed pot to come 1 inch up the sides and set it over medium-high heat. Heat until a deep-fry or instant-read thermometer registers between 325 and 350 degrees. (You can also check the temperature of the oil by dropping a pinch of the breadcrumb mixture into the oil. It should immediately start bubbling and turning golden. If there is very little action, it’s not ready.) Place a wire rack over another large rimmed baking sheet or line a tray with layers of paper towels and set it near your work area.
Working in batches, fry the ravioli, adjusting the heat as needed so the oil stays in the range of 325 and 350 degrees, until golden brown all over, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Using a spider, transfer the ravioli to the prepared wire rack or paper towels. Repeat with the remaining ravioli. Transfer the ravioli to a platter, sprinkle with more cheese and serve with marinara for dipping.
Ingredients are too variable for a meaningful analysis.
Recipe from staff writer Aaron Hutcherson.
Tested by Aaron Hutcherson; email questions to email@example.com.
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